Conditions required for effective observation

Three conditions usually exist if the observation method is to be effectively carried out:

1 The event must be observable: attitudes, motives and other mental activities are difficult to record with the observation method.

2 The event must occur frequently or be predictable.

3 The event must be completed over a short period of time.

One way in which we can ensure that all three of these conditions are met is to set up an experiment in which all the conditions can be controlled and manipulated. The laboratory environment is often the best setting for observational studies.

Observation is used in shopping studies, especially in stores, when the customer is looking at the shelves and deciding what to buy. It is used to find out how things are done in practice.2


• normal versus controlled conditions

• structured versus unstructured observation

• use of mechanical devices to aid observation

• measuring response latency - indicator of certainty of preference

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